When you visit a mechanic, garage, or dealership to fix your car one of the most important things you should know is how to explain a car problem.
Although there’s an abundance of technology for diagnosis, the first thing that will probably happen is that you’ll be asked what the problem is.
In most cases, your explanation is the first stepping stone toward solving the problem.
Having this in mind, this article should help you properly present the problem and make a good description of what’s wrong.
Besides this, you have a YouTube video at the end of the article, that you can also watch on our YouTube channel.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO KNOW?
Knowing how to explain a car problem will help both the mechanic and yourself.
The mechanic will have a good starting point for solving the problem in a better and perhaps faster manner.
This is a huge benefit for you also. If the mechanic has a good head start, this can easily mean less spent time and thus money.
For instance, giving the mechanic valid information about what happens, when, where, and presenting some of the symptoms is worth gold.
Every decent mechanic will appreciate this as it will help him/her solve the problem much easier and in quality.
As opposed to this, wrong and incorrect information can be highly misleading and just make solving the problem much worse.
Not that an experienced mechanic won’t be able to resolve the issue without your information, but again it’s much easier and very useful.
HOW TO EXPLAIN A CAR PROBLEM?
1. USE YOUR SENSES (TELL WHAT YOU SEE, HEAR, FEEL OR SMELL)
When talking about how to explain a car problem, the first thing that you’ll mention is what you can see, hear, feel or smell.
Believe it or not, for an experienced mechanic, this kind of information may be enough for guessing and solving the problem.
Explain what you see
If you notice any kind of anomalies, especially under the hood take note and mention it.
By anomalies I mean things like: broken assemblies, missing parts, loose hoses, loose connectors, do you see anything hanging around, do you notice any kind of smoke, fumes, etc.
Anything that seems out of the normal is worth mentioning, however unimportant it may seem
Tell what you hear
Sounds are great for solving the car problem.
I’ll mention an example with a bad serpentine belt. When the serpentine belt is worn out it slips over the pullies when the engine is running.
Over time, as it gets worse, it will emit a characteristic, sharp screeching sound. Teeling the mechanic about the sound will probably give a good idea of what’s wrong even if the sound disappears in the meantime.
If you want to read more about bad serpentine belt problems, click here for an article on that topic.
Say what you feel
A good example would be a bad cv joint for instance. Among else, a bad cv joint will cause a shaking steering wheel and a sense of vibration in your hands while driving.
Or, another example, is when parts of the suspension are worn out or faulty. You may feel that the car wobbles or is all over the road, so to say.
All of these and similar examples are worth mentioning for sure.
Mention if there is a strange smell
Lots of car problems, when occurring emit some sort of smell.
We’ll take, for instance, a problem with the car installation, namely a short circuit. There’s a good chance that the insulation will burn and produce a smell of burnt plastic and rubber. This is a very good clue for solving the problem.
Another example would be if you have a problem with the coolant system, you may sense the smell of coolant inside the passenger cabin. The same goes for problems with the fuel system and so on.
Don’t hesitate to mention a smell, especially if it’s present all the time.
2. DESCRIBE AND REMEMBER ANY DASHBOARD WARNING LIGHTS
There’s a good chance that a dashboard warning light will come up when a car problem occurs.
This is also valuable information so try to remember which one came up on the dash and preferably when it happens.
I’m mentioning this as lots of warning lights come up intermittently. A good example is the check engine light. We’ve made a separate article about the most common reasons for a check engine light that you can read by clicking here.
A combination of knowing what warning light came up and comparing that to other information may well solve the problem or help to a great extent.
On this part, maybe the best way to inform the mechanic would be to take a picture of the warning light with a smartphone. Especially if you don’t know the purpose of each warning light.
If you want to learn more about the meaning of dashboard warning lights, click here to read an article dedicated specifically to that topic.
3. SAY IF THE PROBLEM HAPPENS IN SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Lots of car problems tend to happen under certain circumstances or from a combination of them.
The car problem may happen when driving over a bump or hole, during the summer, during the winter, when accelerating, when braking, etc.
Be diligent and try to spot if there’s a pattern connected to the problem.
This especially comes in handy for car problems that happen occasionally and irregularly. These kinds of problems are perhaps the most annoying and hard to solve.
So, if you notice a specific situation or pattern, remember or record it, it can be a key factor.
4. MAKE RECORDS OF THE PROBLEM
It would be good to make a quality record of the car problem.
This may sound awkward, but when learning how to explain a car problem, having a good record is very important.
Namely, recording the problem as it happens and with the exact sequence of events.
In previous times, writing down the problem would be the solution. Of course, it still is and although outdated, is very effective.
But, by far, the better solution is to take out the smartphone a make a recording. A note or sound recording is good, but the best option is to make a video log of the problem.
A good video is worth a thousand words and will also spare a lot of explaining and perhaps misleading information.
5. BE HONEST WHEN EXPLAINING
For the last tip on how to explain a car problem: be honest.
Of course, most people will be honest when mentioning the car problem. It’s in their best interest, after all.
The opposite happens when for instance some DIY repair has been done that went downhill, the maintenance isn’t agile, and it may be some sort of freak accident or else.
Whatever the case is, be honest and tell the truth to the best of your knowledge. Otherwise, the mechanic will probably notice these anomalies anyway and you’ll only get yourself in an awkward situation.
Trust me, every decent mechanic or dealership will highly appreciate this. The repair will be much easier and perhaps cheaper to do.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll know how to explain a car problem the right way.
You’ll be able to explain in a correct and precise manner instead of shrugging your shoulders and giving your eyebrows some extra exercise.
Once more, remember that, at the end of the day, all of this is in your interest. Provided that you have a good and trustworthy mechanic, a good explanation is key to saving time, money, and why not nerves.
Also, every decent mechanic will be grateful for some quality help.
In this case, some extra diligence and paying attention to the problem can easily pay off big time.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com
HOW TO EXPLAIN A CAR PROBLEM? YOUTUBE VIDEO
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